For A Good Cause

Vol.29 Issue 14
Page(s) 28 in print issue
For A Good Cause
How To Safely Donate Assets From The Data Center
In his keynote address at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Dell Chairman and CEO Michael Dell urged the technology industry to aggressively recycle and reuse technology: “It’s the right thing to do for our customers. It’s the right thing to do for our earth.”The Environmental Protection Agency estimates 220 million tons of old computers and other technology-related items, such as spent printer cartridges, CDs, and tapes, are put into landfills each year. Barbara Kyle, national director for the Computer TakeBack Campaign, explains that e-wastethe term for electronic refuseis growing three times faster than municipal waste.Recognizing the growing importance of this problem, the European Union has already passed stringent laws regarding the production and disposal of electronic equipment. According to the WEEE (Waste from Electrical and Electronic Equipment) Directive, manufacturers are now responsible for the disposal of their outdated products.While many companies, such as HP (, Dell (, Sun Microsystems (, and Apple (, have instituted programs in which they will take back old electronics and accessories to be reused or properly disposed of for free, most of these programs are aimed at consumer products and do not carry over into the enterprise market. That means many organizations and their data centers are finding themselves saddled with an overwhelming amount of computer equipment and accessories.Many of the unused and unwanted items still have plenty of life left in them. Data centers can save themselves the trouble of properly disposing of their e-waste, as more and more organizationsboth nonprofits and profitable venturesspecialize in finding a new life for old equipment.However, there are some issues to consider when donating e-waste to charitable organizations. License To DonateAs Moore’s Law resulted in technology turnover approximately every two years, the amount of used computer equipment rapidly mounted. Closets, rooms, and warehouses quickly filled with computers and peripherals that were outdated but still functional.Some of the initial nonprofits began linking excess equipment with schools and charitable organizations in desperate need of technology, but without the financial means of obtaining it, quickly realized that they had become the dumping grounds for unwanted technology.The bottom line is that if it doesn’t work, don’t donate it.Today, many organizations that accept donated technology have criteria for what they will and will not accept. For instance, many schools will only accept Pentium-class PCs with a preinstalled Windows XP operating system because they do not have the budget to purchase new software licenses. OEM software is valid on the original machine on which it was installed.

Licensing also becomes an issue when donating enterprise-class appliances past their prime, such as firewalls, IDS/IPS, VPN, and Web filters. Many of these products are licensed to the original purchaser and cannot be legally transferred.

In such cases, it’s best to check with the vendor regarding the legalities of donating these types of technology.

Tapes No Longer Trash

Brian Musil, senior storage acquisitions manager and vice president of business development for, a California company specializing in repurposing DLT, SDLT, LTO, AIT, 4mm, 8mm, optical cartridges, and other media, stresses the most critical aspect of donating or selling e-waste: “The No. 1 concern is data security.”

According to Musil, more storage-intensive organizations, such as banks, law firms, and healthcare companies, donate or sell their older tape media to companies, such as, who perform data destruction on the media and then repackage the still-useful tapes. Musil explains that smaller companies, especially those that will only be writing once to the media for archival purposes, would rather purchase a refurbished tape than pay top dollar for a brand-new tape only to be used once. “It’s something that has to be done because there is so much e-waste being created. Most people don’t think about the tape; they think about the equipment,” he says.

Musil suggests when donating or selling e-waste, especially storage media, to do so with legitimate organizations. “Make sure it’s someone who has been in business for a while and uses the correct methods for data destruction. Make sure it’s not a broker who is just going to buy from an end user and then sell to someone else,” notes Musil.

Dollars & Sense

While some organizations may try to recoup some of their investments by selling their e-waste, donating to a charitable organization can often result in a tax benefit exceeding the price these items would bring on the secondary market. There are federal and state tax credits for donations of computers by corporations to schools, as well as the write-off of fair market value for donations to nonprofit organizations as outlined in IRS Publications 561 and 526.

Other cost savings include free pickup of computer equipment and prepaid shipping for the donation of reusable consumables such as tapes and printer cartridges.

Donating used technology is a win-win arrangement for both the enterprise and charitable organizations.

Written by Sandra Kay Miller